• The Chinese military is building a test facility to simulate thermonuclear explosions on a much greater scale than comparable US centres
• Information from the experiments could give scientists a much clearer picture of how weapons perform under extreme conditions
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 Dec 2018, 2:03PM
Deep in the heart of southwest China’s mountainous Sichuan province, the military is building a machine to simulate thermonuclear explosions on an unprecedented scale.
It’s been described as a Chinese version of America’s “Z machine” – formally known as the Z Pulsed Power Facility – a giant wheel-like device developed by the United States to see how particles react under extreme radiation and magnetic pressure.
Z machines have been used in the development of nuclear weapons, from conventional warheads to the pure fusion bomb – a hydrogen bomb that can in theory be made in any size, cost a fraction of today’s nuclear stockpile and burn “cleanly” without producing radioactive fallout.
And for decades, the Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has led the way in the field.
But now Chinese researchers are trying to build a machine that will produce much more electricity to create much more extreme environments for testing weapons, allowing scientists to delve deeper into the nuclear unknown.